# Re: Comment on WAI-ARIA Role

From: Richard Schwerdtfeger <schwer@us.ibm.com>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2008 16:23:52 -0600
To: "Neil Soiffer" <Neils@dessci.com>

Message-ID: <OF704658EC.7520029A-ON862573F7.00722E33-862573F9.007B09CF@us.ibm.com>
Hi Neil,

Thank you for the request. WAI-ARIA 1.0 is very close to last call and we
are trying to lock it down. Also, one of our key implementations, Firefox
3, is close to being locked down. So, we will discuss this but at this
point it is very unlikely we can get this into 1.0. Also, if we were to
add a new role there are a number of people waiting in the wings that
would like to be considered and this would open up the flood gates.

We have talked about the follow-on for 1.0 and we have been talking about
extensibility for that. Is there a math handler that can do math
interpretation from an image?

I have to ask though:  Would it not be better to create a taxonomy for
Math than simply calling something a Math object type?

Rich

Rich Schwerdtfeger
Distinguished Engineer, SWG Accessibility Architect/Strategist
Chair, IBM Accessibility Architecture Review  Board
blog: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/schwer

"Neil Soiffer" <Neils@dessci.com>
Sent by: w3c-wai-pf-request@w3.org
02/21/2008 01:25 AM

To
cc

Subject
Comment on WAI-ARIA Role

I work for Design Science, which is a W3C member.  I am a member of the
MathML Working Group and have been since its inception.  I am also chair
of the DAISY/Math Working Group.  That WG developed a spec that added
MathML to DAISY; it was approved about a year ago.  Our company developed
MathPlayer, the standard "plug-in" for IE to display MathML both visually
and aurally.  MathPlayer works with JAWS, Window-Eyes, TextHELP, and other
AT to make math encoded with MathML accessible.  It is capable of
generating speech, synchronized highlighting, and braille from the MathML.

I have a request for an additional "role" to further support math
accessibility.  First, some context...

Because of browser implementation issues, MathML adoption has not been as
widespread as it should otherwise be.  A lot of people/sites, including
wikipedia, still use images for math.  However, the images often include
alt text or embedded comments that could be used to make the image
accessible.  An idea that Design Science has been thinking about is
writing JavaScript that grabs the alt text or embedded comments and
provides some level of accessibility.  For example, if the image contains
embedded MathML and MathPlayer was installed, then the javascript could
rewrite the page as one containing MathML and MathPlayer could take over
display and interaction with AT.  If MathPlayer wasn't installed (for
example, someone is running Firefox on Linux), the JavaScript could still
do the translation of MathML to speech and braille.  It wouldn't be able
to magnify or sync highlight.  If TeX or some other known format was
found, the JavaScript could translate it to MathML and then make it
accessible.

The same JavaScript accessibility issues arise with this idea as with
other JavaScript -- AT doesn't know about the JavaScript and doesn't know
that the image (or div/span for JSMath) is really math.  If it did know,
then it could call on our interfaces (or eventually some standard expert
handler interface) and get an appropriate string to speak or string to
send to the braille display (math has it own braille codes and they are
not identical to what is spoken).

Now for the suggestion...  ARIA should have a way to say 'this element is
actually math'.  My non-expert suggestion for how to do this would be to
add a "math" role to the list of known roles.  'math' would be similar to
'grid' in that it represents document structure and contains other
elements.  Ideally, an extensible mechanism would be desirable, but math
is an obvious case that maps onto an existing W3C standard and would
enhance existing pages that don't use MathML.

As a real life example from Wikipedia [
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nth_root], the first image in the XHTML could
attribute as
<img class="tex" alt="\sqrt[n]{a}" role="math" src="
">

[Note:  the alt text is present on the Wikipedia page.  The TeX was used
to generate the image in the first place]

Adding role="math" says that the alt text or comments in the image
contains information that can be used for accessibility purposes.  It
alerts AT software so that they can call on some expert math handler to
get information about how to handle the element.

Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc.
neils@dessci.com
www.dessci.com
~ Makers of Equation Editor, MathType, MathPlayer and MathFlow ~


Received on Sunday, 24 February 2008 22:24:16 UTC

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